Not sure why the first post disappeared. Weird…

Hey, Prosers. Have you read all of the past week’s CdL content? Of course you haven’t, because SWEET MERCIFUL CRAP. Fun Fact: I was going to post the Survivor winner tonight, but didn’t want it to get buried. Less Fun Fact: two of you were nonsubs. More Fun Fact: That’s one fewer than in recent weeks. Neutral Fact: Brooks is still perpetually finding no common ground with any judge. Fact That is Neither Good, Bad nor Neutral Depending On Your Point of View: we do, however, always chatter about these afterward and make sense of what the other person saw. Frankly, this was a wide open week and I’m secretly relieved that we spread the love with the medals. “But Kelly, why do you always say you’re ‘secretly’ something when you tell us about it?” Lick me, Hypothetical Guy, and get on with the turtling!

Beau

Dinner was tater-tot casserole, rolls, and a tall glass of milk. The family was just settling into their seats.

“Dad, can you pass me a roll?” asked Madison. She was a sweet, just barely precocious girl.

“Sure thing, hon,” Dad replied. “So, did you learn anything today in school?”

Madison looked down at her plate. “Sarah said that her dad said that Mom’s a whore.”

Mom dropped her fork. “Maddy! You know better!”

“I’m sorry, Mom. I mean escort.”

Mom’s demeanor lightened. “That’s better.”

“Dad, why is Mom an escort?” That was Danielle, Madison’s older sister. She was the serious one. She tried to prove it with dark eye-shadow and a belly piercing.

Mom interjected. “You do want to go to Princeton, don’t you sweetie?”

Danielle slumped her shoulders. “Yes, Mom.”

“Okay then.”

“Alright!” Dad piped up, swallowing a lump of tater tots. “That’s settled! Now Danielle, dare I ask what you learned in school today?”

Danielle glared at her Dad. “Someone told me that you’re a faggot. That you suck so much dick that you could sell your spit to a sperm bank.”

Dad looked at Mom, then over at his daughter. Then he grinned. “That sounds about right! Now who wants another roll?”

“And cut!” James bellowed, in between giggles. “Just brilliant! Everyone take thirty and we’ll shoot the next scene.

Heels approached him fast from the right. Ah, shit.

“What the hell was that?” It was “Danielle’s” mother. She towered over him. Her hair was wound tight as a drum. As was her asshole, he suspected.

“Uh…”

“You promised me she wouldn’t have to say anything dirty. She’s the serious one!”

“I know!” James said. “She ad-libbed. I didn’t tell her to say any of that.”

“So you’ll reshoot?”

James shrugged his shoulders. “People laughed.”

“I never…” She stopped herself, then looked towards the set. “Annabelle Lyn! Get over here!” She huffed in place until her daughter mosied her way over. “I’m disappointed in you. And I’ll tell you one thing, no more Showtime. Only Hallmark and Lifetime movies until you’re eighteen.”

“But…”

“Shut it!” She grabbed Annabelle’s arm and dragged her out of the studio.

James watched them leave, dejected. Craning his neck, he saw the mother of Jessica, who played Madison. She looked back, sheepishly. “You know, your girl is a natural.”

“Thank you, sir. I guess I…”

“How would you like her to take over the part of Danielle?” He turned so he could face her directly. “We could make her look a bit older. I think she’s ready for this kind of role.”

“I don’t know…” She blushed. “It’s hard enough for me to hear her say wh… well, you know.”

James leaned forward. “I know. I get it. It’s your little girl. But this is acting. Any true professional will understand that. And it’s a much bigger part. With her talent, not only will it get her more notoriety, it will also land her a bigger contract. Whadya say?”

“Um… I’ll have to think it over. I’ll talk to her.”

James smiled. “Great. Let’s talk after lunch, eh?” He confidently sprung out of his seat and headed towards the exit.

Jessica approached her mother. “Hey, what were you guys talking about?”

Her mother looked around to see if anyone was listening. “You did it.”

Jessica grinned. “The part’s mine?”

Her mother smiled. And gave Jessica a high-five.

K: It’s a dangerous game writing about acting for someone who’s worked as an actor. First of all, mothers are not on the set, particularly during 14-hour TV days for major cable outlets. Second, why the hell would Mom have allowed her daughter to audition for this part if she had those hangups? It wouldn’t matter to her whether her daughter was the one saying objectionable things; the content of the show would matter. Also, none of the producers step in and try to defuse the situation? They just let mother and daughter walk from the set, with no repercussions about contract or money? And the girl playing the other daughter just happens to be right for THIS part, too? Also, it’s not cutthroat on a film or TV set. It’s collaborative. I like this prose, and part of me wishes I wasn’t so well-versed in the way things work on set.

DG: I liked the pacing of the reveals of the various levels of manipulation here. The characters all have their goals and they are pursuing them single-mindedly here. That could make the story straightforward, but the reveals keep the reader interested in where it’s all going. GOLD

yickit

December Fourteenth 2014 I see what hes done here I mean I’ve been out side of iowa a few times Its cool to say you whill never leave the state and then dont but I think it is just cooler to get out a few times He dont have a car so that is probably the deal but i have no car and hitchen are prety easy if you ask me Dateline makes sure of that But saying you are the expert means more than just going to Polk County and maybe hitting a few more Im prety sure Ive hit more people from Polk COunty than hes even bin there Raping his hands around story City like he owns it No 1 can really do that right? RIght?! I dont think hes even a real cousin Maybe a 2nd or two One removed I think I heard is the word for it I means why wood you wants to rap your hands around anything thtats not a sweat piece anyway?!! He must be the stupid one I do like talking to his sisteer thought Uncle Fred said to stay away I just look her way once it a while!!!!!! He dont like me much I guess Prob because what I did to him last winter Whatever?! I mean I just want to say to her “”I like talkin to you ater shcool” or sum such like that Shouldnt relatives be friends? Fuk you fred fuktard

December Fifteenth 2014 who the sit new that anyone could reed this!!! Mz W told me to put my feels down in righting and it would help Know shes tellin Fred thats I fukin hate him cuz of how he teets me with his daughter Whell know that I now that evefry one can see this thanks mz w ima not gonna stop sayin what i wanna say

December Sixteenth 2014 sorri guys i guess that mizz w what that fuk is mizz? told me that she dindt rally tell fuking fred about this I relly leaned a lot thought becuz i dont want two do this anymore my fingers hurt and not just the write 1

December seventeen 2014 guess i have to still do this crap i dunno what the fuk sexyal nintendo is but i dont do it anymore i mean i sighned the pledge butt today was good i wnt to all my classes and learned alot fuk a lot mizz w ceeps lookin better and better im guesin she plays a lot of sexyal nintendo
___

Decmber 18 i dunno if any1 can see my llog after that how MIZZ W cut me off frum school butt you can see this hear know i have to stay at hom 4 a hole week spell check this im ADJUSTIN JUST FIN

K: This is one doozy of a risk, Proser, and for me it paid off. I couldn’t have read this character for much longer, but I caught on to the style pretty quickly and it was just readable enough to get into, rather than to bail and slog through it slowly. If you’re going to write a character who’s not real likable, you have to present him in an interesting way, and this gets the job done. SILVER

DG: The voice seems like it is going to be love it or hate it. But I think I can find a middle ground. I think it overstays its usefulness a little bit, but I do appreciate the stylized narrative. BRONZE

Joe Rakstad

I found Princess out by the pond in the park. I immediately knew we had a kinship. She looked at me, and nipped at my finger when I put it close. I could tell she loved me, so I picked her up and gave her a hug. She tucked her head and arms back into her shell. I told her that she didn’t need to be shy. I called and called to her, and eventually she came out.

My cousins arrived at the park. I couldn’t wait to show them my new friend. They would think I was so cool… not that I care about that or anything. They all gathered around and gawked and stared. I think Princess really liked the attention. I let them pet her on the shell, and even on the head. But they couldn’t hold her. Not my Princess.

The crowd started growing larger as the cousins kept coming. They kept petting her and asking to hold her. Their germy little fingers were getting all over my princess, I couldn’t stand it anymore and I screamed told them all to get away.

It was much better when it was just me and her. She loved me, I could just tell. But she seemed sad somehow. Maybe she was bored. I thought maybe she’d liked to be thrown up into the air. It would be like a roller coaster or something. I tossed her up and her little legs flailed around. She landed in my hands and her head and arms and legs went back into her shell. I did it again and again. I only dropped her once or twice. She’s got a hard shell, she doesn’t get hurt. I know she was enjoying it, I could just tell. We have a kinship, you know.

I stopped the throwing after a while because it wasn’t fun anymore. She was still a little sad. I think she was bored with the green of her shell. I knew just what to do. I rifled through my mom’s van and found some old markers that she kept in there. I filled in ridges of her shell with dark black. Then I colored a neat little design on her bottom. I think she liked it. She felt so pretty, and the tickle of the marker made her feel so good.

My cousin Josh came by to take the marker away. I told him to go eat dirt. He’s such a jerk. I wish he would just go away and die. He reached again and got it from me. I wasn’t done with it! I found a rock on the ground and threw it at him. It missed so I found another one. He finally ran like a little baby and dropped the marker.

I went back to my mom’s van and filled in the rest of the spots. Daddy came and said we need to go and that I need to go put the turtle back in the pond. He didn’t understand. Princess was not some wild creature, she was my pet! My princess! I couldn’t… I wouldn’t leave her! He grabbed her from me and threw her on the ground. No!!!! I tried to get out of the van, but he closed the door and locked it and started driving away. No! I can’t leave Princess! No, let me out! The door wouldn’t open! I can’t leave her! We have a kinship!

K: This doesn’t really end so much as fizzle out, but that’s alright here given that the lead character is interesting enough to buoy a story, and it’s believable that the child would see this to be the end of the world. I do have an issue with age here, because it vastly changes the tenor of the story. I read this for quite a while as a budding psychopath of maybe 13 or 14, but at the end I figured it was probably just a kid who didn’t really understand the world around him. Some specificity about a kid is ALWAYS a good idea early on; have another character interact in a way that makes the age clear. Either way it’s a perfectly readable story, though. BRONZE

DG: They certainly do. Not so great when it happens to you is it? I appreciate the parallel drawn between the two. The story leans pretty heavily on that symbolism though, when it could maybe use a little bit more plot. BRONZE

Pete Bruzek

The giant turtle was wheeled in to the auditorium by the fourth graders. When it had reached the center of the floor, the shell opened up to reveal four second graders, singing “Joy to the World” while dragging lovingly crafted horse piñatas on leashes behind them.

The angel chorus stood on a platform slowly raised from the orchestra section forward – their faces crying tears of pitch. Little Timmy Lancaster solemnly walked backward to the microphone. Grabbing it, he shouted “unto us, a child is born! Come all, and join in the celebration.”

He signaled the first graders, who had been strategically placed throughout the audience with their wicker baskets. With shouts of “Rejoice!!” the students jubilantly open their baskets and heaped the contents upon their audience. Thousands upon thousands of ants swarmed out of the baskets and onto the startled parents.

Seven dozen angry (and frankly confused) calls to the PTA, and Mr. Buñuel was not invited to direct the school’s annual Christmas play the following year.

K: This gets funnier every time I read it. I don’t know why Mr. Bunuel thought this was a good idea, but I think it’s funnier that I don’t. None of the jokes are over-told here, and that’s so damned rare around here I’m going to reward the hell out of you. Funny stuff, this. GOLD

DG: OK, I kind of like the absurdity of the play. It would be fun to stay in that world and make people deal with it instead of the punchline paragraph that we got.

Bret Highum

The large wood turtle flailed its legs in the air, clawing for the familiar feel of the ground. Stewart giggled at the bizarre feeling of the creature torqueing in his grasp.

“Let me hold him!” whined Gareth, the youngest. “I found him! Let me hold him!”

Albert wasn’t thrilled about having the turtle in the house, but it made Madeleine smile to see the boys so excited. She smiled so rarely anymore, ever since she took sick after Gareth’s birth seven years prior. Albert was willing to allow almost anything to see his wife enjoying herself.

Jacob held back, hands clasped behind him. Their eldest was such a serious boy, always thinking and patient. And fastidious, just like Madeleine, though Albert would never tell her that. After Jacob held the turtle, he’d be scrubbing his hands for minutes to make sure they were clean.

“Here,” said Stewart, either tired of Gareth’s whining or maybe just behaving as a good brother should. “Hold him by the sides, firmly- watch the claws! He can’t reach you if you hold him right there, but he’ll sure try!”

Gareth reached out eagerly for the creature, grabbing recklessly for the shell with no regard for Stewart’s instructions. One of the turtle’s endless churning feet slashed across his palm, a claw drawing a red line on Gareth’s white skin, with the turtle gaining enough leverage to almost twist out of Stewart’s hold. Jacob leaned forward slightly- fascinated, Albert thought, by Gareth’s howls of pain and Stewart’s efforts to retain control of the beast. Madeleine sighed, a breath of laughter that thrilled his heart to hear.

“Boys, boys,” Albert left Madeleine’s side and strode over to them. “Come now- Gareth, listen to Stewart and do as he directs. Hold the turtle for a bit, look it over and let Jacob have a turn. Then we can release-“

“I don’t want a turn, Father.” Jacob spoke firmly but diffidently, in that manner he’d always had. “I’ve looked her over well enough.”

Slightly put-off, Albert turned back to the other two and facilitated the transfer, with no further injury or theatrics. He didn’t see the look exchanged between mother and eldest son, a look of understanding and kinship Albert could not have shared.

“Where did you find him, Gareth?” Albert inquired absentmindedly as he watched the turtle flail away in a more desperate manner than he would have expected from creature normally much more docile.

“Down by the big hole!” Gareth nearly shouted in excitement. “Oh, oh- there’s a big hole down by the road, where Missus Mamie used to have her cottage! And her cottage is gone!”

Albert stood up straight in astonishment. The identical smiles of Madeleine and Jacob were gone before he turned around.

K: Try as I might, I can’t get this one to come together. There are a lot of moving parts so I know there’s a bigger story here, but perhaps also because of the number of moving parts, I can’t distill it down to its base. Madeleine and Jacob are evil…yes? But why? What’s the big story here? Part of this is on me, I know, but this lacks specificity.

DG: I like the way the interaction of all the characters is worked in here. I’m trying to pull something larger from the story, but I’m not sure I’m getting it. Jacob and his mother are clearly allies, but I can’t decide if they are enacting some plan or just outside of the rest of the family. Hmm. SILVER

Ian Pratt

It is the late morning. You have just woken up. You are splayed on the bed with a thin blanket covering your torso. You are not wearing clothes. The bed consists of a queen-size mattress placed in the corner where two windows meet. A small fan hums on the floor at its lowest setting. The windows are open but the room is very warm. Light is streaming through the shades, not too bright, but enough to give the room a nice glow. The room has a lilac scent from a small vase of flowers on a bed stand next to your head. You can hear splashes and running water from the shower in the bathroom that is adjacent to the room. In the shower is your date from last night. Last night was your first date. You know your date’s first name, but cannot remember a last name. After a few minutes the shower goes quiet. A small feather from a down pillow floats in the air near your face. You blow a quick gust of air to send the feather floating away. The door to the bathroom opens.
***
Why return to this scene, time and time again? What is it about this dusty room that makes it the fulcrum upon which your mind spins? Surely this moment’s prelude would be of a more tantalizingly salacious interest, and the following moments ostensibly contained many dramatic highs and lows. So why are they not important? This saccharine idyll seems to have been filtered through so many layers of nostalgia and regret that it can hardly be said to exist in any genuine way, and yet, as soon as the bathroom door opens, we loop right back to the beginning. What is in this room? What secrets? Our curiosity can be, shall we say, persistent.
***
None of the techs care, particularly, but they’re frustrated at a lack of forward momentum. It’s really hard to blame them. They’ve been running the same damn sequence for weeks, again and again and again. The monotony is really starting to fester. I’ve heard a few mutter about seeking new postings. So far it’s just petty grousing, I’m not too concerned. I’m bored too, and I’m in charge here. Nobody really seems to care except for the A.I.s, and they’re positively captivated. There are three of them now, swirling around the department like hounds worrying at a dead animal. I’ve heard some more serious talk from people above worried about resource management. Frankly, I don’t get it. I don’t get what they see, or what they want to see. I don’t understand this project at all.
***
Jepsen stepped inside the lab, peering at the late-shift techs slumped at their terminals. Three of them, slouched in their seats with glassy eyes and slack jaws. He walked past them to the large glass tank in the center.

“All good tonight?” He called over his shoulder, his eyes still on the tank and its murky contents.

“Yeah, dude,” a tech answered. “All good.”

Jepsen looped his thumbs in his belt, his hands patting his pistol on the right and his restraints on the left. He leaned forward, his eyes only a few inches from the glass. He still had the rest of the department to patrol, but every night he paused a few extra minutes in this lab. Inside, inky whorls of green and black, and sometimes, Jepsen swore, a pinkish hint of something else.

K: Ahhhh. This started out a bit tediously with the second-person narration, but soon enough we get a reason for the switch, and this is an intriguing little beast. This stops short of over-explanation while also giving enough for us to latch on to; I know I’ve given this exact critique at least three or four times before, but I love a story that can leave me wanting more while also leaving me feel satisfied, like a good Japanese masseuse. Is my wife reading this? SILVER

DG: This is just teasing. It doesn’t quite give me enough to fall completely into the story, but damn I want to. This actually reminds me of some of the “weird fiction” stuff that I’ve read where writers try to tap into their subconscious to produce a dream-like setting/plot that doesn’t necessarily make sense, but does evoke a feeling or state of mind. SILVER

Johnny-Johnny Pope-Pope

The kids in the dining hall were playing with something. I knew that I should check it out, but this was the first chance that I’d had to talk to Becky alone. The kids could take care of themselves for just a damn minute. Camp is short and you have to take your opportunities as they present themselves. I slid my tray next to hers and sat down as smoothly as possible. “Where’ve you been my whole life, beautiful?” I said, and immediately regretted as I felt my face get red hot.

“Hmm?” She didn’t look up from her book.

“Um… whatcha reading?”

She looked up slowly. “Huh? Oh, um, Anna Karennina.” As if I couldn’t read the cover.

“Any good?”

Becky sighed, and set the book down, marking her place with a piece of paper. “I don’t know. I think the main character is kind of a whore.”

In the distance something large went flying through the air. It registered in the back of my mind, but there was no crash. I made a mental note to hurry up what I was doing, so I could deal with that.

“Hey,” I said, trying to sound casual, “after lights out, some of us like to get together by the pool, if you’re interested. You know, just to, um, hang out.”

Becky rolled her eyes at me so hard I could almost hear it, but she sounded bored when she said, “Look, Mark, you seem like a nice guy and all, but I have a boyfriend, and I know what ‘hangs out’ at the pool at night. Thanks anyway.”

“Oh, um, sure. OK. Hey, I’d better check out what those guys are doing over there.”

By now the campers were at full volume. As I walked over I could see that they had a turtle and they were tossing it back and forth like a ball. It’s head never came out of the shell, but as it flew through the air I could see one leg would wave around, as if to say “Help! Does anyone see me? Help!”

I ran shouting into the middle of the circle. “WHO BROUGHT THAT TURTLE IN HERE!? WHAT’S WRONG WITH YOU!? HAVE YOU ALL LOST YOUR GODDAMNED MINDS!?” The silence that followed was deafening; none of the campers had ever heard me shout or swear before. None of them would meet my eye. I picked up the turtle. “This guy doesn’t deserve to be treated this way! He’s just trying to be the best he can be, and he CERTAINLY DOESN’T DESERVE YOUR SCORN! Um… I mean… He, um, doesn’t deserve to be treated so badly.”

I walked out of the dining hall and down the path that led to the creek. I set the turtle down by the water and sat next to him. I don’t know how long I was there before he slowly poked his head out. He looked at me, and I sat and watched him as he ducked back into his shell, and then slowly looked out again. I didn’t move, but ours eyes met, and I knew he felt the same way I did. After staring at me for a moment, he slowly walked away. I was cheered by this. If he could carry on after his ordeal, then I surely could as well. I got up, and walked back toward camp.

K: I desperately want this to come together as nicely as it might. The dialogue was alternatingly spot-on and unbelievable, and this story split itself between two narratives without quite coming together. If we’d gotten the girl’s reaction to the turtle business, this would have been a complete story (and I think I would have liked her to be impressed by his rage, just for humor’s sake, though this is just preference and not a criticism). Also, if our narrator could see the cover of the book, why did he misspell “Karenina?” Anyway, this in some ways does capture camp (I know what it’s like to fall hard for a girl two days into the five days you’ll ever be around her) and with some polish, I think it would be pretty strong. BRONZE

DG: Just overexplained a little bit. I think there’s an idea here but it just doesn’t trust itself enough to let us come to our own conclusion.

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It’s true: Google Docs recognizes the word “turtling.” I assume it means “to turtle.” Anyway, this one for me was the most exciting week from a conceptual standpoint, as many of you found weird ways to talk about turtles (I did that once too here, with my longest story at CdL. Go find it!). Ian picks up the weekly win in a goldless week, while Beau suffered from writing something too deep into what I know (I know he knows the deal, because he dislikes Silver Linings Playbook) and Pete suffered from Brooks being psyched out by the brevity of his wit. Or something…Brooks can tell you, if he wants. I suppose he already did, though, after the piece. You know what? There’s literally no reason for me to keep writing. How are you doing, Prosers, with two-thirds of the season in the books? I look forward to some more, and really got hungry for short stories after this layoff.

New challenge to be posted soon enough, because there haven’t been enough posts today.

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